Teacher unions condemn principal’s beheading

published 17 November 2009 updated 17 November 2009

Teacher unions around the world are condemning the kidnapping and brutal murder of an elementary school principal in the Philippines.

The severed head of Gabriel Canizares, 36, principal of Kanague Elementary School in Patikul, Sulu, Philippines, was found on 9 November. His body was recovered several days later. He had been kidnapped by armed men on 19 October and held for ransom.

EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen expressed the shock and outrage of teachers and trade unionists everywhere. “We are appalled to learn of this atrocious murder of a dedicated educator,” he said. “And we demand in the strongest terms possible that the government of the Philippines act quickly and boldly to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Van Leeuwen vowed that EI will continue to monitor events closely and will hold the Philippine authorities to account for its prosecution of the Canizares case and for significant improvements to the human and trade union rights situation in that country. He noted that EI has long been concerned about the flagrant rights violations under the government of Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In 2007, delegates at the 5th EI World Congress called on the Arroyo government to “immediately put a stop to extrajudicial killings and involuntary disappearances; investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible for these acts; and ensure that its security forces respect the human rights and civil liberties of citizens.”

Alliance of Concerned Teachers national chairperson Antonio Tinio said that a number of teachers’ unions from Malaysia and Cambodia have sent messages extending their sympathies to the family of the victim and condemning the brutal act. “We thank our brothers and sisters overseas for expressing their solidarity in defence of teachers’ rights,” said Tinio.

“We convey our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of brother Gabriel Canizares on their bereavement,” said Elizabeth Dikertina, Secretary of the Miri division of the Sarawak Teachers’ Union (STU), Malaysia.

“We join our voices in unison in condemning the despicable act of the criminals and pray that those responsible will be brought to justice,” said Irene Wong, Secretary of the Sarikei Division of the STU.

“We are in solidarity against this barbaric act by some bandits who violate the human rights of educators. We urge the authorities to take action to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators in order to give justice to our fellow educators,” said Kourn Ngourn, Secretary General of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA).

“It's time teachers around the region act together to condemn such a despicable act,” said Hamidi Mookkaiyah of the Malaysian Association for Education. Tinio explained that teacher organizations in Southeast Asia affiliated to Education International have formed a Trade Union Rights Network, which seeks to promote respect for human and trade union rights in the ASEAN region.